Trim the intrepid seafaring cat
During my recent business trip to Australia, I happened upon a rather touching monument outside the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney. Of course in cities such as Sydney there are numerous statues and memorials that line the streets and parks, but this one was conspicuous by its unusual subject matter.
At first glance we see a more traditional statue of the great British explorer Matthew Flinders (pictured below). Flinders (1774â€“1814) was a key figure in Australian history: not only did he lead the first circumnavigation of Australia, he is also generally credited as the person who ascribed the name â€˜Australiaâ€™ to the land mass as we know it today.
Statue of Matthew Flinders in front of the State Library of New South Wales (Wikicommons)
Flinders is therefore, of course, a worthy candidate for such a prominent statue in his honour. The statue of Flinders was erected in this location in 1925, around the time his papers were donated to the State Library by his grandson. However, an additional statue was added close by in 1996, fulfilling one of Flindersâ€™ own wishes â€“ a memorial to his beloved cat Trim.
â€‹ Image Â© Claudine Nightingale.
Trim the cat, whose statue you can also just see to the left of Flindersâ€™ in the first image, sits on the side of the Mitchell Library building, close to the memorial of his master. The statue, which was designed and sculpted by John Cornell, is a touching tribute donated by the North Shore Historical Society. Its erection honours a deep-seated wish, expressed by Flinders himself, to honour his furry companion in the form of a memorial or statue. While imprisoned on the island of Mauritius, Trim went missing and, after two weeks, was presumed dead. Upon discovering this sad news Flinders wrote in his diary:
'Thus perished my faithful intelligent Trim! The sporting, affectionate and useful companion of my voyages during four years. Never, my Trim, "to take thee all in all, shall I see thy like again"; but never wilt thou cease to be regretted by all who had the pleasure of knowing thee. And for thy affectionate master and friend, he promises thee, if ever he shall have the happiness to enjoy repose in his native country, under a thatched cottage surrounded by half an acre of land, to erect in the most retired corner a monument to perpetuate thy memory and record thy uncommon merits.'
Near to Trimâ€™s statue are two inscribed plaques. One includes the following wording, written by Flinders in memory of his lost friend:
â€˜TO THE MEMORY OF TRIM.
The best and most illustrious of his race The most affectionate of friends, faithful of servants, and best of creatures. He made the tour of the globe, and a voyage to Australia, which he circumnavigated, and was ever the delight and pleasure of his fellow voyagers.â€™
The second plaque can be seen in the image below, proudly stating the impressive achievements of this hugely loved cat. Although he was but a passenger on Flindersâ€™ important nautical explorations, no cat lover can doubt the emotional comfort and support Flinders must have derived from this feline friendship on the long, arduous journeys they undertook together upon treacherous seas and leaky ships. For that we salute you, Trim!
Image Â© Claudine Nightingale.â€‹